Saturday 1st July: World Cup MJ at Jaime’s

Jaime invited several of his mates up to his pad in Mitaki to watch England play Portugal in the quarter finals of the World Cup, and to play a bit of mahjong. Prior to that we met at the izakaya on the second floor of the building attached to the front of Yokogawa Station.


Don, Tim, Jaime
David, Ray, Kenyon

In short, the usual suspects for a house party that involves football and mahjong were present. Everyone was there for the football, Jaime, David, Kenyon and Ray for the mahjong as well. Two England shirts (David, 2002; Jaime, 2006) and one France shirt (Tim, 2004) were in evidence.

Don was upbeat about England’s prospects against the Portuguese, as he had been yesterday evening too, and his optimism was quite infectious… despite everything that we know about the managerial decisions leading up to the World Cup and continuing through it, which you can read about over on Jaime’s blog .

While on the subject of football, Kenyon revealed that he supported Leeds in the Championship and West Ham in the Premiership, choices which were approved of by David and not disapproved of by Don.

Kenyon then suggested that world groups would be a better idea than the current regional groups in the qualifying stages of the World Cup. Jaime argued in favour of having the top 32 national teams in the competition while Don argued the case for keeping regional qualification so that smaller teams had a chance to appear along with their exotic fans and add that festival jollity to the proceedings that we so much enjoy.

We then adjourned to Fresta to stock up on drinks and snacks and headed up to Mitaki by train (Ray, David, Tim, Kenyon) and bike (Jaime, Don). The pleasant atmosphere of expectation on the platform was augmented by a Suntory “-196 degree” ginger chuhai courtesy of Tim.

Up at Jaime’s we reviewed the highlights of the completed quarter final games and tucked into the excellent brandy-filled cheesecake that Sawako had made for us. Dan also turned up to try the cheesecake and watch the game…

Then Jaime got out the black mahjong set which has served him so well hitherto… David, Ray and Kenyon joined him at the table and squinted at the tiles as they played.

However, things did not go according to Jaime’s cunning plan as Ray, after a long absence from the mahjong table, swept into an early lead…

Mahjong was adjourned at the beginning of the South round and we all took our places in front of the big screen for the big match…

Well, in case you don’t know the rest, click here.

Jaime went out because he could not bear to watch the penalty shoot out. It was a farce. Two Portuguese misses and three Portuguese saves – the first time in a World Cup penalty shoot- out that the goalkeeper has saved three penalties. Mind you, he didn’t have to try very hard. Only Hargreaves, the man of the match, displayed anything like professional, or GERMAN confidence. Poor old Carragher scored, but had to retake the penalty because he had not waited for the whistle and – inevitably – his second effort was saved…

We resumed our game of mahjong and Ray finished top on +28 with David creeping into the black on +2. As that result put Ray above Tim on the “Grand Accumulated Results” table he called it a night and retired from the mahjong table to watch the France-Brazil quarter final.

It sounded like a good game. Meanwhile, at the mahjong table David won the second game and Kenyon won the third.

During the third game the mood in the flat turned sour as a certain disgruntled and disappointed England supporter attempted to assert that England had not lost because the game was a draw… This opinion was disputed by several other guests who attempted to point out that penalty shoot-outs have to be considered part of the game in the knock-out stages and that a failure to perform in the shoot out amounts to a defeat. When he resorted to name-calling it did me the kind of favour that a slap in the face or a bucket of cold water can do: It woke me up and alerted me to the fact that I had been drawn into one of those arid “either-or” or “all-or-nothing” disputes that are so seductive to our captious friend,

Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;
Capaneus; trout for factitious bait…

I returned my attention, therefore, to the mahjong table before Kenyon had quite run away with the game and left Tim to take up the baton and run with it. We were later berated by him for not having backed him up. Tim had amused us earlier by picking up on a generalization made by our Capaneus which was large enough to contain a contradiction with a more particular point which he had made earlier, and which Tim had noted and filed away for future reference (i.e. now, at the moment when the general observation contradicted the particular point). Capaneus took that in good part and told Tim not to be so literal (a rebuke which, I doubt not, has also been noted and stored away for the future)…

At some stage during the France-Brazil game Tim nearly brought the roof down with his whoops and yells when France scored! We were all pretty happy with that result – the goal I mean… Jaime was less happy with the whoops and yells…

We called it a night at the mahjong table after three games and the results were:

David +2, +32, -6 = +28
Ray +26, –, — = +26
Kenyon -2, -4, +19 = +13
Jaime -26, -28, -13 = -67

The new quarter began with a change of fortune, small but welcome, for David.

Everybody except David had left Jaime’s around 6:30am. After an hour’s snooze D&J had to get up and go and play – or attempt to play – football at Higashi Yano, where the game kicked off at 9:30.

Despite the heavy rain of the past couple of days, the game had not been postponed, and the morning had brightened up so now we resorted to hoping that the Japanese captain would have rounded up about 12 or 13 other players so that we would be able to act as substitutes and snooze our way through the game.

We arrived at Kaita-ichi at about ten past eight and bumped into a group of Brazilians among whom we were pleased to recognize Arturo with whom we shook hands and exchanged commiserations. His mob were off to play “footsal” – indoor football. One of the larger members of his team asked us “France?” and his face darkened and he boxed the air when we said “Oh yes,” and chuckled…

We took our leave and headed off to seek out the football ground on foot. Despite our doubts, Jaime led us to it and we got in about fifty minutes kip on a couple of old benches before the rest of our team – if you can call it such – arrived…

“How many players?”
“Nine or ten.”
“Including us?”

Ah, by “Nine or ten,” Yuusuke, our captain, meant, of course, “nine.” Most of the seven Japanese who had turned up had been drinking all night, and most of those who had not turned up had been drinking all night… But wait a minute, if two old and unfit foreigners can stay up all night drinking, playing mahjong, watching footie on tv and arguing with their mates, and still make it to a match despite getting in barely an hour’s sleep, then why can’t these 19 and 20 year olds? In the good old days of Inter Milang, 1992-1997, hangovers were worn as badges of honour on the field of battle.

Our goalkeeper was among the missing miscreants and so I opted to go in goal. Within five minutes we were two-nil down. By half time, despite a number of blocks and saves, the score stood at 6-0.

Jaime and I swapped places in the second half and there was a slight improvement. We ended the “game” 11-0 down. Despite the result, several of us gave it all we had – which was not a lot, but we did keep on battling and attempted to defend as much as possible and even won a corner towards the end of the second half… All to no avail.

This season has been a disaster. We lost the first game 1-0 with a full team, but with little in the way of crosses. The next game was forfeited – which means we automatically lose it 3-0. And now, this our third game, five or six of our team go missing and we lose 11-0 to a team that we beat 4-1 last season. Yuusuke came over to apologize to us at the end of the game. The point we made to him was that team members may certainly drink all night, but they should come to the game – or if there are not enough players then cancel the game. I suspect he may have been afraid of cancelling a second game in a row.

It looks increasingly like demotion to “C” division next season – that is if the team survives…

I headed for Yamato no Yu after the game and snoozed on the tatami mats in the cafeteria until I was joined by Mrs HH and Miss ELH and then soaked my aching limbs in the hot baths while Miss ELH tipped bowls of hot water over my head and experimented with tasting the salt water (etc) of the outdoor bath…

Despite the trials and tribulations of these events, I must say that I quite enjoyed them, masochist that I apparently am.


  1. And now for the fat checking:

    There were three England shirts in presence (Tim had one as well), an Italian cup and a bottle of Portuguese wine as well.

    I did reveal my choice of teams would be Leeds and West Ham, although with never watching games we’ll see how that goes, but that was over the mahjong table and I don’t believe Don heard.

    I didn’t suggest world groups. I suggested regional teams, like an East Asian all star team and so-on. It’s Jaime who loves world groups.

    I guess those are the only additions and corrections I can see.

    The theory of quarters is definitely a popular one. I certainly subscribe to it. I finished positive on opening night of quarter three, so that’s good. Let’s hope it stays. One more quarter like the last one and I might be able to catch Mr. Noda.

  2. True, Tim also brought along an England shirt but does not wear England shirts in public, including in izakayas.

    I still think that you mentioned Leeds and West Ham in the izakaya and that Don picked up the bit about supporting West Ham in the Premiership as being a good choice, which was a most reasonable comment coming from a Chelsea fan!

    Oh yes, I remember now that your regional teams suggestion got shot down in flames pretty quickly!

    You have elevated my “hypothesis” to a “theory”. I wouldn’t go that far… Further testing is required. It might not apply to all and sundry. Also, changes in fortune may begin roughly with the quarterly changes, but that is not to say that runs of good or bad results will not extend over more than one quarter…

    Finally, the score chart link is a good idea and I have added it to the main page, thanks.

  3. The more I think about world groups the more I become convinced they’re a bad idea.

  4. And the more you would be wrong.

    The WC should be the pinnacle, the elite. There are certain countries, due to geographical accidents that in reality have an automatic place in the finals. This does not help the development of the game. Placating regional zones is stifling the game. The present set-up is nothing more than football gerrymandering that allows the status quo to continue. The current system has zero to do with the best teams and everything to do with which region brings in the most sponsorship and TV revenue. Put it this way, to qualify for the Olympic final you first have to achieve a certain qualifying time that is applicable to everyone – not just the top 10 containing your continental neighbours.

  5. I agree that the current set up has nothing to do with bringing the best teams. And the current world cup set up isn’t about crowning the best team.

    We all know that the fairest way to do it is with a large group system. We’d do world groups of some large number and the top X teams from each group would advance and so on down to a last group. There would be no knockout play and not even any 4 team groups, where who you draw is quite important, and is still a situation where one bad game can doom you.

    But I think changing to that system would be a horrible idea. The current system is levels more exciting. Both the group phase and knockout are incredibly pressure packed and basically every game is important.

    So if the World Cup isn’t absolutely obligated to try to field the best 32 teams, but it is instead trying to provide an experience of determining a champion and being a wonderful spectacle, it doesn’t make sense to have world groups.

    It’s quite likely that under world groups there would be years when Asia goes unrepresented. That takes a lot of the enjoyment out of the game. The world cup is much less interesting if it’s 20 European teams, 7 S. American teams, Mexico and 4 teams from Africa. Give me a team that doesn’t deserve to be there fighting for their lives, like Trinidad & Tobago over a team like Poland every day of the year.

    You just need to drop the clearly false idea that the world cup is all about determining the best team and just let it be a champion of one tournament.

  6. It isn’t a false idea at all. The best team in 1934 was Italy because they won the WC. Whether they actually were or not is irrelevant because they are recorded as the World Champions. Sport is MORE unpredictable when you have the better teams involved, not less. When was the last genuine team to come from nowhere and go through to the latter stages? North Korea – in 1966.

    With World Qualifying groups, teams in Asia and South America would have to improve or not participate – well tough luck. You don’t get prizes for turning up, that is kindergarten logic. Only by excluding average teams do you actually improve the game as a whole.

    The make-up of this world Cup would probably be heavily weighted in the Europeans favour, but that would change, and radically so over the next tournaments. 20 European teams boring? Not if they are the in the top 32. It will change, World Cups actually hinder the European teams in qualifying because there is only 3 time zones to counter, similar weather and no altitude problems.

    You have mentioned Poland a few times in conversation, declaring that you would prefer to have more colourful teams. Well I agree, lets have more Senegals or Nigerias or Cameroons and less Saudi Arabias and Japans.

    I am not trying to advocate more European teams. I just want to see the best 32 football sides competing with each other. I am tired of the cliché – the real world cup starts in the QF! Well it shouldn’t. It starts when you have biggest sporting event in the world divided into 8 groups with 4 teams in it. Not waiting for the chaff to separate from the wheat. With real opposition my own country, England wouldn’t have progressed as far as they did, and deservedly so.

    World Groups would not always prevent dross from appearing, but it would relegate it to a less likely occurrence, whilst still allowing for colourful and genuinely strong sides to elevate the World Cup and its matches.

  7. The penalty shootout is no more a lottery than is a game of darts. It is no coincidence that Germany win virtually all theirs. It is, however, arbitrary, as its result bears no relation to the quality of the two teams, nor the 120′ of play that has preceded it. For this reason it is worth maintaining the distinction between going out on penalties and actually losing the match.

    It was saddening to discover the assembled company (to a man) so much in thrall to the expedient demands of the media age to fail to appreciate this.

    Long live the captious!

  8. Capaneus,

    The condition for winning or losing in the knock out stages of the world cup includes the possibility of a penalty shoot out. I would prefer it were it other than it is. I expect everbody in the room last Saturday would.

    Nobody disputes the distinction between winning and losing in the game and winning or losing on penalties, which is why it is usual to say, “England lost on penalties,” – everyone understands the distinction and no-one disputes it.

    I don’t disagree with your first two sentences. The third is much more debatable. The fourth turns on the definition of “match”.

    As touching as your tristezza may be, it is misplaced because your second paragraph is nothing more than a straw man.

    Keep on wringing those acorns!

  9. Hirohurl states my third sentence is debatable but neglects to debate it. His comment on the fourth sentence is guilty of the very captiousness of which he accuses me. And the whole retort employs the common rhetorician’s ploy of dodging the main point I made.
    Acorn juice stains your own carpet, sir!

  10. Ahem, Good Sir,

    You have taken captiousness captive.

    The stain on my carpet was caused not by acorn juice, Sir, but by the parbreak of an inebriate.

  11. Yes, I heard about that.

    So what do you make of Italy’s “glorious victory” over the French?

  12. That matter deserves to be discussed by a full assembly the Cock’s Eye Club over dinner.

    After 18th July… Thursday 20th??

    I have only seen the last hour of the drama. Now I am off to get a couple of beers in and watch the whole lot…

  13. It’s funny that people are still arguing about this, but I’ll go ahead and add my two cents’ worth.

    The reason you have to say that penalties are part of the game is that the knowledge that the outcome might eventually be determined on penalties often affects how the teams play during regulation and, particularly, extra time. Just look at Italy’s uncharacteristically aggressive style in extra time in the semfinal against Germany. Knowing they would have to face Germany in a shootout led them to a strategic decision about how to play during the first 120 minutes.

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